Thursday, 10/21/15

  1. Cold-hearted philanthropy
  2. What’s the opposite of “Mission Creep”?
  3. Oprahfied Divinity School
  4. Spy Elf of the Morning Hallelujahs
  5. (Insert City Name) Sheilaist School
  6. 1 with the Empire’s backing is a majority
  7. BenOp Burnout
  8. Double standards


To the “new, scientific practitioners of voluntary giving, eventually known as philanthropists,” Beer credits “the virtual abolition of certain diseases, massive increases in agricultural yields, and advancement of basic and applied research in numerous fields.” But they also advanced “eugenics and forced sterilization, the secularization and centralization of American society, and the idea that the fates of individual places and the loving care of particular persons are secondary considerations.”

Beer is subtle and fair-minded. He acknowledges that the philanthropist has a point when he objects that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul does not address poverty’s “root causes.” But, describing the plight of a Philadelphia-area family during a recent Christmas season, Beer rightly observes that, “despite a century and more of sustained effort and many billions of dollars, the Andrews family still needs a stove.” So: charity or philanthropy? Which should we choose?

“[E]ffectiveness” is a metric of utility, and utility is the ne plus ultra of technology—which is what modern philanthropy has become: a tool that mediates our relations one to another. At its most extreme it manifests itself in the mentality of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which, despite making homelessness one of its focal projects, refused to assist the dozens of homeless sleeping outside its $500-million Seattle headquarters, on the grounds that doing so did not qualify as a “systems level” outreach.

(Ian Tuttle, Charity or Philanthropy) “Philanthropy,” by the way, is a good, Christian word (philanthropos is one Greek description of God, after all). It’s “scientific philanthropy” that starts getting cold-hearted.


Suppose … that the U.S. doesn’t have or need to have a “mission” at all, but could instead aspire to become a normal, prosperous country without any of the delusional self-importance that comes with having a “mission.” We would not presume to be upholders of a “world order,” and consequently wouldn’t consider every crisis or conflict around the world as our problem to “solve.” We might then admit that our attempted “solutions” often make matters worse than they were before. We might even show some of that epistemological humility Brooks mentions from time to time and acknowledge that we don’t understand the rest of the world well enough to fill the role he wants the U.S. to play.

(Daniel Larison, dissing David Brooks) I can hear it now: the world’s most execrably mendacious song, John Lennon’s Imagine, reworked to begin

Imagine there’s no mission,
it’s easy if you try,
No grand delusions ….


To the Editor:

Secular, but Feeling a Call to Divinity School,” by Samuel G. Freedman (On Religion column, Oct. 10), identifies an important trend at major seminaries throughout the country. Here at Union Theological Seminary, we see incoming classes that are a third unaffiliated, mirroring national trends.

At Union, however, we have noticed that in addition to our unaffiliated students who are agnostic or atheist, many believe in God but don’t belong to a specific religious organization. They come to ask questions about the meaning of life and to change the world.

Maybe what we see emerging is not a lack of religion but a different kind of religion. Is it perhaps a second reformation?



Union Theological Seminary

New York

See this, too.


His wife described the 2003 stroke and its aftermath in a 2011 memoir, “One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, a Marriage and the Language of Healing.” Afflicted with severe aphasia, unable to process language, Mr. West could initially only repeat the cryptic syllable “mem.”

Very slowly, words returned, but in unexpected combinations. He was fond of calling his wife by pet names, a habit alluded to in the title of her 2011 memoir. Now they assumed baroque form: Spy Elf of the Morning Hallelujahs, Parakeet of the Lissome Star.

“He would come out of the bedroom and say, ‘Where’s my cantilever of light?,’ ” Ms. Ackerman told The Guardian in 2011. “I suppose you can only know that this means a velour tracksuit when you have been living with someone for four decades.”

Slowly, he began writing again. At his wife’s urging, he set down an account of his stroke. “You know, dear, maybe you want to write the first aphasic memoir,” she recalled telling him two months after the stroke. “He smiled broadly, said: ‘Good idea! Mem, mem, mem,’” ….

(Obituary for Paul West, whose writings I don’t know) This entire obituary is fascinating, and such gems are one reason I suppress my gag reflex and subscribe to the New York Times.


Christians who think setting up a school and calling it “Christian” (or “Catholic”) takes care of the problem are deluding themselves. I talk to Evangelical and Catholic school teachers and administrators all the time who say that parents are one of the chief obstacles to the Christian formation of their children that the schools are trying to carry out. Parents want to outsource that formation to the school, but don’t actually want to co-operate in the mission of forming a Christian conscience in their children. When Christianity comes in conflict with achieving middle-class success, the parents don’t want Christianity interfering with the plans they have for their children’s lives. What it sounds to me like from these conversations is that many parents are fooling themselves: they don’t actually care about their kids being Christian, but rather want their children to go to school with kids they assume will be “nicer” and more middle class.

(Rod Dreher, elaborating/paraphrasing Jake Meador) “I talk to Evangelical and Catholic school teachers and administrators all the time who say that parents are one of the chief obstacles to the Christian formation of their children that the schools are trying to carry out.” That’s the money sentence. My family has 30+ years’ experience of that. To echo it is my point in quoting Dreher this time.


Look at what happened last week in Chicago:

The battle for equal access for transgender students is pitting Illinois’ largest high school district against federal authorities.

At issue is locker room access for a transgender high school student in Palatine-based Township High School District 211. The student, who identifies as female, is asking that she receive full access to the girls’ locker room.

Citing privacy concerns, the district has denied the request and instead offered a separate room where the student can change.

“At some point, we have to balance the privacy rights of 12,000 students with other particular, individual needs of another group of students,” said District 211 Superintendent Daniel Cates. “We believe this infringes on the privacy of all the students that we serve.”

An official with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the student in a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education, called the district’s stance “blatant discrimination, no matter how the district tries to couch it.”

(This one’s from the same long Rod Dreher post, as he continues to work toward his “Benedict Option” book.)

The notable item here (it’s almost impossible to keep up with these transgender demands any more) is the ACLU’s confident concluding declaration. And why shouldn’t they be confident? They have the magic word “discrimination” on their side, and not just any old discrimination, but “blatant.” Q.E.D.

Federal officials responded to the complaint, which was filed about a year and a half ago with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, by saying the school is in violation of the Title IX gender equality law, according to the ACLU and district officials. A representative of the civil rights office could not be reached Monday.

So, the entire might of the Empire federal government is being brought to bear on a school district that wants to prevent a teenage boy who thinks he’s a girl from using the girls locker room at a high school.

Beam me up, Lord. There’s no intelligent life down here.


I suspect that by the time Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option book is published, I’ll have absorbed most of it along the way with his blog.

I also suspect that it will not begin to silence the carping of critics who … well, see item 5.

The task is to ignore them, don’t argue (they’re not arguing in good faith anyway, whatever they may think — and “they” are legion) and do it, not just talk about it.


* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.